Tag: Portland Trail Blazers

Indiana Pacers v Boston Celtics

George Hill, after unhappy season, leading depleted Pacers in playoff push


BOSTON – George Hill doesn’t shy form describing how last season went for him.

“I wasn’t happy,” the Pacers point guard said. “I felt like, to play the way I want to play, I’ve got to be happy. The way things finished off last year and me not feeling like I was that involved on the offensive end and things like that, I wasn’t happy.”

He also didn’t shy away from doing something about it – and the results have been a quietly spectacular season that has the Pacers still in the playoff race despite losing Paul George (to injury) and Lance Stephenson (to the Hornets).

Hill began his offseason regimen the day after Indiana eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals, according to Pacers coach Frank Vogel. Hill said he was often in the gym three times per day.

“We had to ask him to back off several times,” Vogel said.

Said Hill: “I didn’t ease up. I kept going. He can say that all he wants, but I’m the player. I wanted to get better. So, there was no easing up for me.

“I’m a person that, once I’ve got my mind made up, there’s no knocking me off that course.”

Hill said he was intent on “just getting back to who I was in college… get back to being myself.”

In college, Hill was a big fish in a small pond.

He starred at IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) from nearly the moment he arrived as the reigning Indiana high school scoring leader. Unlike Damian Lillard, who went to Weber State because bigger programs overlooked him, Hill held scholarship offers from Indiana and Temple and was courted by Florida.

Hill chose hometown IUPUI, which hadn’t been a Division I team even a decade, so his ailing great grandfather, Gilbert Edison, could see him play. Unfortunately Edison died before Hill began his college career.

But Hill, stating the loyalty Edison taught him, refused to transfer. Besides, Hill believed the NBA would find talent anywhere – and he believed he had plenty of talent.

So does Vogel, even when there were limits on Hill’s ability to show it.

Hill, whose usage percentage had never cracked 20, saw it plummet to 14.8 last season – tied for lowest among starting point guards:


“I knew that when he was getting criticism last year for not being the point guard that everyone thought that this team needed, I thought it was unfair, that he was capable of carrying a much bigger load,” Vogel said. “And he’s proven that this year.”

Hill’s usage rate has soared to 24.7.

All along, he planned to carry a bigger load, but without George and Stephenson, Indiana really needs it.

Hill is averaging career highs in points (16.4) and rebounds (3.9) per game, and his 4.7 assists per game are within a hundredth of his career high. Yet, he’s playing just 28.4 minutes per game, his fewest since becoming Indiana’s starter.

As a result, Hill is posting career highs in points (blue), assists (gold) and rebounds (gray) per 36 minutes:


Unfortunately for the Pacers, despite Hill’s breakout season, they still might miss the playoffs. They’re two games out and 11th in the Eastern Conference entering  tonight’s pivotal contest with the 10th-place Hornets.

Don’t blame Hill for Indiana’s perilous position, though.

Hill missed the first 28 and 39 of the first 44 games of the season due to injury. Before he got healthy, the Pacers looked cooked. But he – along with David West, who also began the season injured – has rejuvenated them.

They’re 20-16 with Hill and 12-27 without him. They outscore opponents by 4.6 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court (equivalent of fifth in the league) and get outscored by 3.4 per 100 when he’s not (24th).

The biggest gains have come offensively, where Indiana had really fizzled.

Hill runs more pick-and-rolls than before, serving as the defined playmaker he wasn’t last season. And he has hit several huge shots:

At this point, it’s probably worth taking a step back and remembering Hill was hardly a bad player before this season – even in a limited role. He defended well, hit spot-up shots, kept the ball moving and, perhaps most importantly, kept turnovers down. He started for a team that won 105 games and four playoff series the previous two years.

LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin and Mike Conley were the only players to post more win shares both of the last two seasons.

But as the player Indiana trade for him, Kawhi Leonard, became the youngest NBA Finals MVP since Magic Johnson, Hill saw expectations for him rise. Being a low-usage complementary player was no longer enough.

He has taken that challenge head on, and he’s succeeding. Not only has Hill increased his load, his efficiency has remained in tact. He’s shooting a career-high 48.3 percent from the field, and his 3-point percentage is a solid 36.5. Despite having he ball in his hands more, his turnover rate remains low.

Hill, because he fit his role so well, posted All-Star-caliber numbers in certain advanced stats prior. Now, his numbers are up and he looks like an All-Star.

Beyond lifting Indiana into the postseason, other challenges loom.

Stephenson (probably, at least) isn’t returning. But at some point, whether or not it’s this season, George will. When that happens, what will Hill do?

“I’m going to continue to be myself,” Hill said. “I think I’ve established myself now and showed everybody what I can do. There’s no turning back now.”

Chris Kaman tweets photo of Chris Paul hitting him in the ‘groin’

Utah Jazz v Portland Trail Blazers

Near the end of the third quarter of Wednesday night’s contest between the Blazers and the Clippers, Chris Kaman received a flagrant foul for shoving Chris Paul to the floor, after which a brief altercation ensued.

As the league weighs its options in terms of additional punishment for Kaman in the form of a fine or possible suspension, Kaman took to Twitter to post a picture of exactly what prompted him to take matters into his own hands.

This obviously doesn’t make Kaman’s reaction acceptable, but the fact that he caught a (possibly inadvertent) punch below the belt that the referees didn’t notice does make it more understandable.

Report: Knicks to target younger free agents this summer

Greg Monroe, Bojan Bogdanovic, Mason Plumlee

The Knicks will finally be able to hit the reset button this summer. With a likely top-three draft pick and a ton of cap space, they’ll not only have a premier young talent coming in to join a (theoretically) healthy Carmelo Anthony next season, but also plenty of space to add more pieces.

It’s highly unlikely that Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, the two biggest stars on the market, leave their current, favorable situations to join the Knicks, but there are plenty of other options that might actually make more sense, in addition to being more realistic.

From The Sporting News‘ Sean Deveney:

The Knicks will make their pass at Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, and likely at Rajon Rondo and/or Goran Dragic, too, but expect them to be aggressive in pursuing as many young free agents as possible. Jackson does not want to build a team around players in their early 30s. That means Reggie Jackson, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight will factor prominently on the Knicks’ radar as the team looks to avoid its long-standing habit of indulging in short-term fixes that set the franchise back in the long term.

Some of these players will be easier to pry away from their current teams than the likes of Gasol and Aldridge — especially Monroe, who’s unrestricted and went through an ugly, highly publicized negotiation with the Pistons last summer. Going after a player like Monroe or Knight, coming off their rookie contract, will also provide a middle ground in the age of the team’s core between the 19-year-old they’re going to draft and the 30-year-old Anthony.

It’s going to take time for the Knicks to rebuild properly, and who knows whether they’ll actually get there. But going after younger, middle-tier stars and holding onto their draft picks is going to be a better strategy going forward than the “clear out cap space and hope we can lure LeBron James or Kevin Durant with New York’s appeal as a media market” roster-construction method that’s been in place for a while.

More wing injuries for Trail Blazers: Dorell Wright breaks hand

Los Angeles Clippers v Portland Trail Blazers
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The Trail Blazers took a major blow when Wesley Matthews suffered a season-ending injury.

Arron Afflalo slid into the starting lineup, a downgrade but not necessarily a huge one. The bigger issue: Portland’s reserves became considerably weaker without Afflalo.

The Trail Blazers are just 7-6 without Matthews, though they’ve won four straight.

But just as they might be figuring things out, Dorell Wright gets hurt.

Peter Socotch of CSN Northwest:

Trail Blazers forward Dorell Wright fractured the fourth metacarpal in his left hand in Wednesday night’s 126-122 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Trail Blazers announced.

X-Rays confirmed the fracture and the timetable for Wright’s return remains indefinite.

Healing time on this type of injury is anywhere from 4-6 weeks, but other measures can allow for increased mobilization, which is why there has not been a determined timetable for Wright’s return from injury.

Pain from this type of injury is generally very mild, according to these same medical journals, and does not require heavy medication outside of ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Jabari Young of CSN Northwest:

This is the LaMarcus Aldridge effect.

Aldridge had a tear in his thumb expected to keep him out 6-to-8 weeks, but he returned just a few days latereven though that could adversely affect him long-term.

Portland had a chance to win a title with Matthews, and the team could still make major noise in the playoffs if everything breaks right. These players are committed to maximizing the chances of that happening.

If Wright misses time, expect Alonzo Gee and Allen Crabbe to play more. C.J. McCollum could also see more time in three-guard lineups.

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Five Things We Learned in NBA Wednesday: James Harden drops 51, stirs pot on MVP race

Sacramento Kings v Houston Rockets

If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while being thankful you weren’t in the wrong place at this auto race

1) James Harden drops 51 reasons he should be MVP. More and more it feels like the MVP race is down to two men (although Russell Westbrook keeps making his case, keep on reading this post). Tuesday night Stephen Curry put on a show and sent a vine viral (and created a Chris Paul meme). Wednesday night it was the James Harden show as he scored a career-high 51 points, going 8-of-9 from three to get there. It was vintage efficient Harden — he only took 25 shots, but he hit his threes and got to the free throw line 13 times. He had 16 points in the first quarter, 17 in the third and 10 in the fourth to help hold off a feisty Sacramento team that had DeMarcus Cousins going off (keep reading).

We’ve got to acknowledge Cousins, who took advantage of Dwight Howard being out (resting half a back-to-back) and scored 24 points, grabbed 21 rebounds and dished out 10 assists on a monster night. That’s just a second career triple-double for Cousins.

2) Chris Paul takes over, drops 41, may have earned Clippers home court in the first round. This was maybe the Clippers best win of the season — second night of a back-to-back on the road, having just lost to Golden State, and needing this game to both maintain their playoff seed and keep home court in the playoffs. The Clippers were down by as many as 19 in the second quarter, but Los Angeles went on a 25-7 fourth quarter run — something partially inspired by Chris Kaman shoving Chris Paul to the ground — to take the lead and get the 126-122 win. The Clippers didn’t do it with defense, they did it with an unstoppable offense, and that was led by CP3 in point god mode, scoring 41 and dishing out 17 assists.

3) Russell Westbrook scores his 10th triple-double of the season, but Dallas wins a 1980s throwback game, 134-131. Up tempo, high scoring, not a ton of good defense? It must have been 1980s throwback night in Oklahoma City, with the Thunder playing the role of Doug Moe’s Nuggets. Westbrook did his best, giving us another triple-double with 31 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. It wasn’t efficient — he shot just 31.3 percent — but Westbrook put up the numbers that kept OKC in the game and spark a comeback that had the Thunder ahead in the fourth. They just couldn’t stop Chandler Parsons, who had 13 in the fourth quarter for Dallas.

4) Evan Turner records triple-double, and Boston wins…. but so do the Nets thanks to Brook Lopez. Almost lost in all the other big performances Wednesday night, Evan Turner recorded a triple-double for Boston — 13 points, 12 assists, and 11 rebounds. Boston easily beat the fading Pacers, 100-87. The problem for the Celtics is the Nets got a put-back bucket from Brook Lopez with two seconds left to lift Brooklyn past New York 100-98. The Nets/Celtics/Heat race for the final couple playoff slots in the East remains fascinating — Brooklyn and Miami are tied for the seven and eight seeds at 34-40 (with eight games left) while Boston is half-a-game back at 34-41. This could go any way the last couple weeks of the season.

5) Nowitzki reaches 28,000 points. Congratulations to the greatest European player ever in the NBA, and the best shooting big man ever. Only seven players have reached the 28,000 point plateau, and Dirk Nowitzki is one of them.